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Cargo volume growth in October after 14-month decline

Cargo tonnage handled by Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) in October 2009 increased by 1.3% over the same period last year, to 324,000 tonnes – marking the first month since August 2008 that a year-on-year monthly comparison registered positive growth. Passenger throughput and air traffic movements declined 3.7% and 7.8% compared to the same month last year, to 3.9 million and 23,945 respectively.

Transshipment traffic also shrank, decreasing 8% compared to the same period last year in part because of the diversion of Mainland/ Taiwan cargo to scheduled direct flights across the Taiwan Strait. Tight capacity from Hong Kong due to strong demand and reduced freighter capacity also made carriage of transshipment less attractive to airlines. Meanwhile, export volume registered a very small year-on-year increase of 0.1%, ending months of negative growth. Import volume performed exceptionally well in October, posting year-on-year growth of 13%.

On the passenger side, Hong Kong resident traffic registered 20% growth over October 2008. Visitor numbers dropped by around 4%, while transfer/ transit traffic declined by approximately 18%, due to the weak performance of the Mainland and Taiwan markets.

Stanley Hui Hon-chung, Chief Executive Officer of Airport Authority Hong Kong, pointed out that the recent traffic figures continued to indicate signs of stabilisation, particularly on the air cargo side, which was in line with the overall economic environment. "It is encouraging to see cargo throughput end the downward trend and increase by 1.3% in October. Though this is just a mild improvement made on October 2008 – which itself saw a drop compared to October 2007 – it nevertheless is an encouraging change for the better during a challenging time.

"Meanwhile, pre-Christmas stock replenishment has caused a sudden boom in air cargo in the region, resulting in higher rates and more extra freighter flights being operated. Momentum is building up to the year-end seasonal upturn, which hopefully is a sign of market recovery," Mr Hui continued.

From January to October, the airport received some 38.2 million passengers, moved 2.7 million tonnes of cargo and handled 231,800 aircraft movements, representing yearly declines of 6.3%, 13.4% and 7.9%, respectively. On a rolling 12-month basis, passenger throughput was down 6.2% year-on-year to 46 million, while aircraft movements dropped 6.9% to 281,345 and cargo volume slid 15.2% to 3.2 million tonnes.